Merlin under fire in UK for marketing ticket prices without taxes

Posted Monday, May 16, 2011 12:17 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Britain's biggest theme park operator, which runs Madame Tussauds and Legoland, has come under fire for marketing its tickets excluding VAT. In recent weeks Merlin has started to market its tickets excluding VAT, the 20 per cent sales tax that all consumers have to pay.

Read more from The Telegraph.

Monday, May 16, 2011 1:27 PM

My sense is that that is a big no-no in the UK, at least culturally. For example, if you go looking for a rental home in Orlando, the UK owners will almost always quote prices inclusive of tax, while the US owners almost always have it as additional.

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Monday, May 16, 2011 1:43 PM

you are correct. It's especially a big no-no since (as the article states) VAT is 20%.

It's contrary to common practice, and when you're adding 1/5 again to the price seen in the advert, that's a bit of a shock. The implication is, that Merlin was marketing the prices as some type of discounted price (Not a true discount, but cheaper than people would have EXPECTED the price to be), then get to the gate and are shocked.

This is in no way to defend/argue against VAT, just simply adding on to Brian's comment about local perception.

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Monday, May 16, 2011 6:42 PM

Absolutely, it's a total no-no in Europe in general.

FWIW, Merlin tickets are among the most expensive available on this side of the pond anyway. Alton Towers' gate price is £40 ($65) compared to the far larger (and better IMHO) Europa Park which is €36 ($50).

One of the things that drives me absolutely demented in the USA is the fact that the price I see generally isn't (but occasionally is) the price that I have to pay, especially since different states have different tax rates.

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Monday, May 16, 2011 6:44 PM

Cedar Point used to post prices for food with the tax already figured in, but I suspect they stopped that when the pricing got ridiculous.

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Monday, May 16, 2011 8:20 PM

Did it have to do with accepting credit/debit cards? I'm not sure, but I think that until Kennywood started accepting credit/debit cards at food stands a couple years ago, tax was included and prices were generally a denominator of a quarter. I think now though they do the generic $XX.99 pricing. I don't remember for sure though.

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Monday, May 16, 2011 8:42 PM

Richard Bannister said:


FWIW, Merlin tickets are among the most expensive available on this side of the pond anyway. Alton Towers' gate price is £40 ($65) compared to the far larger (and better IMHO) Europa Park which is €36 ($50).

While I agree, Merlin has taken the Disney/Universal route and is simply using the gate price to demonstrate how much you are 'saving'. You can save 25% instantly by booking online.

Buy one get one free / half price vouchers are EVERYWHERE, more so than last year. Last season I took a drive out to the coast, I got a voucher with my BK lunch, three in my newspaper and two with my petrol purchase.

While Europa have a lower gate price, the number of vouchers/offers available is minuscule in comparison and I'd suspect that the average amount paid for a day ticket is much higher, despite the lower prices on the gate.

I guess the real gripe is that the price excluding VAT is irrelevant to the customer. The customer can't choose not to pay it. The main reason for the complaints is that Merlin are choosing to advertise prices without the VAT and it only becomes clear when on the third page of the purchasing process that VAT needs to be applied.


Imagine Toyota or Ford advertising the price of a new car on a billboard at £10,000, only to find out the price is actually £12,000 after the test drive - it wouldn't happen in the UK, it doesn't happen in 99/100 places, that's why it's misleading and that's why people are bitching about it.

Last edited by Rick_UK, Monday, May 16, 2011 8:48 PM
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Monday, May 16, 2011 9:03 PM

^Do government purchases have VAT excluded? The only times I've not paid a generally-applied sales tax were when I was purchasing "tax exempt" for State items. We otherwise (almost) always pay it....even when it's a hidden charge. Then again, how often do we really "add value" to any product...for services I can more easily grasp the concept.

Not sure why we (Americans) seem to prefer to have taxes added after purchase price? Cigarettes and gasoline, two of the more heavily-taxed items here, are the only two things I can think of offhand where the taxes ARE included in the "listed price".

For some reason, I do seem to remember that more businesses used to list "post-tax" prices....still happens occasionally, and it's kind of nice to have them do the math so you round off to even dollars. Almost nostalgic in a way.... :)

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